Estimated distance walked this day: 15 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 437 kms
This day was devoted to visiting the remaining temples in or immediately around Takamatsu. We took a little train that got us about 45 minutes from Temple 84, Yashimaji. This temple was at the top of a lava plateau, nearly 300 m tall (about a thousand feet), and the climb up was pretty steep.
We could see a funicular track, and out of curiosity, we walked to its base. It was clearly abandoned, its paint peeling. It is possible that when they built the toll road to the top of Yashima, the funicular went out of business. Well, we weren’t taking either one – we found the walking trail instead. There were a number of people walking up the hill, either as pilgrims, or perhaps on a morning constitutional.
We finally made it to the top, and entered the temple gates. The stately main hall for the temple had fading paint, which I felt made it look more charming. Immediately adjacent to the temple was a Shinto shrine, honoring the tanuki, an animal sort of like a badger or raccoon. Tanuki are very popular in Japanese folklore, and you see statues of them all over Japan. Since it is reputed to mate for life, a tanuki is symbolic of marital happiness. This particular shrine was devoted to the tanuki as loving mother, and it had a statue of a tanuki with rather human-like breasts, nursing a cub.
We also visited the temple’s museum. Many temples have ancient artifacts, but no way to display them , so they just come out once a year, or on special occasions. I figured it was worth five hundred yen to thank Yashimaji for having some way for the general public to view their treasures.
After we got our book stamped, I asked the way to the trail to leave the mountain, and the temple staff person said that we would be well served by walking to the viewpoint before we left the hill. So we came back out the temple gates we entered, and then walked out to the viewpoint. She was right – it was well-worth the additional walk, as we could see not just central Takamatsu, but out over the islands of the Inland Sea.
We walked around the top of Yashima, and saw a large abandoned building next to the abandoned funicular station. It looked like a dormitory to me, but maybe it was an old hotel? Ah, the wonders of the internets – the answer (and many more pictures) is here.
The trail on the way down was a lot steeper than the way up, and I sorely missed my pilgrim’s staff, which I left back in the hotel room. We needed to return to sea level, so we could climb up to the next hillside temple, Yakuriji, Temple 85.
We crossed the water. Now, we were coming up the next hill, and my eyes were peeled for the noodle shop indicated in my map book. I had nearly given up hope, but it appeared, and we got lunch.
Unlike the previous hill, this one had a working funicular to get us to the top. It was also just a bit higher up than the previous hill, so we sprang for the fare. We didn’t have to walk far to reach the temple.
The temple complex burnt to the ground during the Warring States period, and suffered again during a major earthquake about three hundred years ago.
The mountain on which this temple sits is famous for its granite quarries. On the way up, and then on the way down, we saw many small granite carving places, where they make statuary for gardens or funeral markers. We saw a somberly dressed family apparently choosing a headstone as we walked along.
Shidoji was our final temple of the day. You can see its five story pagoda from all directions. It was established in 693 CE, but burnt down six times before 1500 CE. The King of the Dead is the patron spirit of this temple, and each time it was destroyed, someone went to his kingdom to get his blessings on the new construction project.
After we finished at Shidoji, we were to take the local train back to Takamatsu. Clearly I was too tired, because I guided us on to the express completely in the opposite direction. The conductor was bemused by our predicament, but also let us know that he would only let us return on a local (getting us back to Takamatsu maybe – maybe – before bedtime) unless we ponied up 500 yen to be able to correct our error using an express. It took a good half hour before we could even get off the train, and then we had to wait for one going the other direction, and even with it being an express, it was still an hour’s ride back into town.
When we finally got there, we ate at an Italian restaurant in Takamatsu. I drank my only glass of red wine on the trip there.